Top tips for working night shifts
What can I do to fight fatigue while working night shifts?
Firstly, don’t try to 'power through it'. Fatigue puts you, your colleagues and your patients at risk.
- Make sure you usually have a good sleep routine
- Get extra sleep before your shift. An afternoon nap is ideal as it reduces the length of time you have been continuously awake. A lie-in is an alternative
- Plan how you will get home. Is there an option other than driving?
- Will you need to rest before driving home?
- Keep well hydrated and eat healthy snacks. Calories on nights DO count; they contribute to the adverse health effects of night working
- Maximise exposure to bright lights in non-clinical areas
- Breaks are essential: work as a team to cover each other for these
- A 15-20 min nap can significantly improve alertness
- Longer naps may result in sleep inertia
- Be vigilant for the 04:00 dip: your lowest physiological point
- Work as a team to check calculations and be aware of the effects of fatigue on decision making
- If you can, a consistent routine during shifts can help
- If you are too tired to drive, have a short nap before leaving work
- Have a snack before sleeping so you don't wake up hungry
- Go to bed as soon as possible to maximise the amount of sleep you will get
- Do not plan deliveries or daytime activities for the days between night shifts. Warn your housemates that you need to sleep
Recovery after nights
- Have a short sleep in the morning and then get up
- Aim to go to bed at your usual time; avoid a long lie in the next day
- You'll need at least two normal night's sleep to reset your sleep routine
See our useful tips to aid sleep.